Category Archives: Paper Management

Managing Kids Artwork

ManagingKids ArtworkI get questions about managing children’s artwork all the time. Since I only have one preschool aged child, I was just introduced to this multiplying monster last year. Oh, my goodness- paper proliferation! Anyway, I thought it would be helpful to get advice from my wonderful and talented colleagues who have more experience.

Ellen DelapBWDanielle LiuBWMegan SpearsBW
Ellen Delap, CPO®Danielle Liu, MPA, CPO®Megan Spears, CPO®

Q1. How do you manage the flow of artwork your child/ren create(s)?

Ellen’s A: Set up a basket to hold incoming art and other school papers at your Command Center. It’s a collection spot for 2 week’s worth of work. Every 2 weeks spend a few minutes with your child reviewing what’s in the basket. Display precious artwork with a clothesline in a hallway, in open frames with a binder clip or in a notebook with page protectors. As art rotates out, take pictures and create an end of the year photo art book.

Megan’s A: Art is displayed as it comes in and then after a few weeks stored on a shelf in their closet. When the school year comes to a close, we sit down and review all pieces and choose 10 that they really love. All art keepsakes are then stored in an art box under their bed.

Danielle’s A: I set up easily accessible “holding” bins for each child’s artwork in a closet close to the kitchen. This allowed me to toss the artwork in a safe place, keep the kitchen counters clean, and review the artwork at a later date for “keepers.”
I also had a couple “rules:” I didn’t keep 3-D art, especially if it involved food (macaroni noodles, beans, rice, etc.) One art project was made with chocolate pudding! I sang “the ants come marching two by two…” and discreetly disposed of it. Another rule was to process the bin contents at least twice a year – winter break and summer break.

Q2. How do you involve your child/dren in the process?

Ellen’s A: Kids can be involved by sharing and telling you about their work. It’s about the process and not the product, as well as the encouragement from you. > Kids can decide what art to display. They can choose their best work. Don’t be afraid to let go of prolific artists work. Of course they should not see you letting it go.

Megan’s A: They make all the decisions, even when they were in preschool. Some years were tougher than others and it was important to be flexible. I am only there for moral support and to ask questions. Often, when they pull out their art box to put their keepsakes away; they will go through it and re-sort and almost always find things they no longer love to toss. Choosing 10 pieces from the entire school year can be challenging at first, but does get easier (and more manageable) because then you can pick which pieces are really special. It’s easy to be flexible when you’ve set a boundary.

Danielle’s A: I would go thru the bins first, choosing special pieces that had meaning. School work was mixed in, and I would choose a few things that captured their writing or thought process at the time. I tossed spelling tests and math worksheets as frequently as possible. The children would then sort through the bins, selecting anything special. It was rare they would want to keep much more.

Common Threads

I love that Ellen, Megan and Danielle have all involved their children in the decision making! I know it can take a bit longer initially but the investment pays off. It’s a great way to begin teaching your children to prioritize, organize and most importantly, let go of what they don’t love or need. The last of which is one of the most underutilized “tool” for organizing anything IMO. And, if you really don’t want to be in charge of all the things in your home, here’s an opportunity to teach them to take the lead.

They (and I) have similar components to their systems, yet no one consulted with each other. Which goes to show you that while there is essentially no “right way” to organize, there are concepts in common that you can apply to almost any room, space, belonging or system in your home.

These are the common threads in our systems for managing kids artwork:

  • Home & Habit- Establish the habit, both for yourself and your children, of collecting the artwork into a single, designated location or inbox. Make it their job to take artwork out of their backpacks and place it in your designated inbox. Last year, I actually put my son’s artwork into my inbox currently so it forces me to address it in a timely manner. This year, I plan to have him help me clean out his backpack when we walk in the door from school so he can learn the process.
  • Flexible Display- Find a simple and flexible way to display artwork that allows you to change it out easily. {Pinterest Board?}
  • Long-term Storage- Designate a bin for each child and make sure it is stored in an accessible location. Otherwise, you will dread putting artwork away. Ellen mentioned taking a picture and creating a photo book, which is a great way to actually enjoy and honor the artwork your children create. Danielle made a great point about edible artwork. As organizers, we’ve all come across our fair share of damage from pests, climate and moisture. Eliminate those problems by taking a picture- I guarantee that you will be able to cherish the memory just the same without feeding any unwanted creatures.
  • Regular Maintenance- I’m sure we all have a different schedule but the key is to sort through and edit the artwork collection on a regular basis. You get to decide what that is. You might be surprised that at the end of the school term, your child will be able to make those decisions on what is no longer important to them. One important thing to note, do not override your child’s decisions. If you want to keep something they don’t, pull it aside in private and place it with your keepsakes.
  • Responsibility/Accountability- The kids are responsible for choosing the artwork they keep. They are putting their artwork in its home and they are learning very important life skills in the process.
  • Archive- A great way to retain the memory of the artwork without having to manage the physical artwork is to take photographs. You can do this using any old camera or phone these days or you can use an app intended for this purpose. I have been using PicScanner to photograph artwork as it comes in. But, honestly, haven’t taken it any further than that…yet!

I love to answer questions, so if you have one feel free to post it in the comments, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter or email me!

Ciao for now!







4 Reasons Why Paper Piles Up

In this Practical Paper Organizing post, I listed the three reasons why paper is such a challenge: overwhelming volume, we were never taught and perspective about what paper represents. Those reasons apply to most organizing challenges. But the list felt incomplete.

3 Reasons Paper Piles Up


So, today I am officially adding #4 to the list: Our lives are often in flux.

Our homes, businesses, families, schedules, etc. are in a state of constant change. It seems like just when you’ve found your rhythm and created a routine that flows, Swoosh!The rug gets pulled out from under you and you’ve fallen flat on your a$&! Ok, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic but it’s not far off for me sometimes. Do you feel that way, too?

I can guarantee that you’re not alone. It’s very difficult to maintain order and get things done when the way you did it yesterday no longer works. Despite that, it is quite possible to lighten your load so you can be more agile. Instead of throwing out your entire routine, you can often make small shifts in how you do things, store things and make decisions. Those small changes will help you minimize your paper piles, maintain your sanity and keep your household running smoothly.

I have learned this lesson repeatedly since becoming a mom. What about you? What has caused your rhythms and routines to fluctuate lately? Job? Move? Child(ren)? I’d love for you to let me know in the comments.


How to T.A.C.K.L.E. Your Paper Piles

Are you sick and tired of the paper piles? Have you tried every year (or more frequently) to set up new systems that just don’t last? In continuation of the Practical Paper Organizing theme here on {Homeology}, today I’m sharing how to T.A.C.K.L.E. your paper piles. In case you haven’t noticed, Professional Organizers love a good acronym! Of course I had to have one, too.


I have spent hours upon hours working with people on paper in their homes. I had one client who brought out at least three more brown paper bags full of paper every time we worked together. She was able to tackle her endless paper and it changed her life, relationship with her husband and saved her boatloads of money. How? We found unused gift certificates and un-cashed checks, eliminated all of the late fees and fines she paid by not being organized, and she was able to back-file taxes for the last three years (IRS owed her). While this may not be your situation, there are some proven methods for dealing with and managing paper in order to help you be more efficient and organized, less stressed and help your household run more smoothly.

In this post, I introduce the three reasons paper is such a challenge: overwhelming volume, never having been taught how to manage it and the fact that we don’t recognize paper for what it really is {an action or decision}. I talk about the different types of paper here: Reading, Action, Reference and Archive and how they require different categories, containers and locations throughout your home. Where and how you store it can aid (or hinder) your ability to keep your paper organized and flowing in the right direction.

I thought it might be helpful if I laid out each of the four different types of paper and broke it down with the acronym: T.A.C.K.L.E.

TimeIt's important to schedule time for collecting and processing paper. If you do so consistently, you won't need much time at all. There is also a time component related to each category of paper.
AActivitiesEach category of paper has different activities associated with it. Dealing with all paper in the same way is likely to cause a bottleneck and create clutter.
CContainersUse containers to provide a home for paper and minimizes visual clutter; Ensures that things are more likely to be put away; Size of the container limits the amount of paper and serves as a prompt or reminder that it's time to let go of what you aren't using or no longer need.
KKey CategoriesUltimately, you need to customize categories to your personality, needs and situation. However, there are often Key Categories that I recommend using that work for many.
LLocationStoring paperwork or reading materials in the right location will help you keep it organized, get it done, and know when to let go.
EEliminateWe have many ways that paper comes into our lives and homes, but are missing a way to let it flow out. Set up a system and a criteria for eliminating excess paper in your life.


Time:When do you do your reading? Do you need to schedule some additional time to get it done?
Activities:Read, Skim, Delegate, Act, Extract, Archive
Containers:Container ideas include baskets, magazine racks/holders, desktop sorter or zippered pouches and poly envelopes for on-the-go reading. You want the container to be able to hold a reasonable amount of reading material but not so much it becomes overwhelming.
Key Categories:'Required', 'Desired', or 'On-the-Go' Reading; In other words, do you need to read it for work, running the household or do you want to read it for pleasure? Is it something you can carry with you for tackling while you wait?
Location:Where do you do your reading? Store each category of reading material near where reading happens. For example, 'desired' reading might be by your bedside; magazines and catalogs while sitting on your sofa, 'required' reading at your desk and 'on-the-go' reading travels with you in your purse, briefcase, car, on the train, etc. Required reading for children may happen near the kitchen table or desk in their room.
Eliminate:When your container is full, it's time to purge. You may want to set time limits on regular publications (i.e. last 2 issues, 1 year of issues, etc.) Also, if it's important enough to keep, when will you set aside time to read it?


Time:In addition to time for processing, you will need to make time for performing related actions and making decisions.
Activities:When you are 'taking action' on a piece of paper you are Deciding or Doing.
Containers:Go vertical with containers such as a desktop file box, magazine file box, or hot file. Horizontal containers or piles tend to lend themselves to, well, piling up.
Key Categories:Pay, Research, Call, Email, Enter, Write, etc.
Location:Your Action file should live within your 'Primary Reach Zone' when seated at your workspace.
Eliminate:Once the action is complete, can you eliminate the paper? Or does it need to be moved to reference or archive?


Time:Reference only includes information that you will refer to on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Activities:Retrieve, refer to and replace
Containers:Ideal containers for reference paper include 3-Ring binders, Notebooks, Bulletin/Magnet Boards, Filebox and/or file cabinets.
Key Categories:Vital Documents, Auto Records, Home Maintenance, Insurance (Home, Life, Medical), Utilities, Medical Records, Pet Records, Phone lists, Class Rosters, Community Group Information, etc.
Location:Reference paper lives in either your 'Primary' or 'Secondary Reach Zones' depending on how frequently you need to reference it.
Eliminate:Set up a regular date to review reference files for outdated information i.e. Quarterly


Time:Archive includes information that you don't need to refer to often or at all, such as tax returns, supporting documentation or legal documents.
Activities:File it and create an index so you know what you have and can locate it quickly if you need to.
Containers:File storage boxes (i.e. Banker's Boxes) work very well for this type of filing.
Key Categories:Real Estate Records, Income Tax Returns, Supporting Tax Documentation, Legal Records, etc.
Location:Store in an out of the way or hard to reach location but avoid storage locations that have the potential for moisture accumulation and/or extreme temperature fluctuations such as the garage, basement or attic.
Eliminate:Consult a professional regarding the appropriate retention guidelines. Purge files when they "expire" (i.e. supporting tax documents after 10 years)

Want a Copy?

I am working on compiling all of this info into a neat little cheat sheet for my subscribers. Enter your email here if you’d like to be added to my email list and receive your copy of the T.A.C.K.L.E Paper Quick Reference Card! If you’re already a subscriber, it will be delivered to your inbox.


Ciao for now!





10 Tiny Tips for Practical Paper Filing

Here’s a quick and dirty list of tips for paper filing. It is by no means intended to be a comprehensive list, nor serve as a complete resource for organizing and managing all of your paper. These tips most likely will not resolve your paper clutter challenges. They are just tiny tips for making your life easier with paper.

10 Tiny Tips Practical Paper Filing

  1. Don’t use paperclips- sometimes they ‘clip’ when you don’t want them to.
  2. Insert hanging file tabs in front of file- it serves as an easy handle to lift the file you’re looking for
  3. Eliminate interior manila folders- I haven’t used them in years and I’ll never go back!
  4. How to Label:
    -Use simplest method
    -Begin with a noun
    -Start broad, move to narrow as volume grows
  5. Color coding- keep it simple, if you must do it; it can get confusing, overwhelming or cause a bottleneck if you run out of supplies
  6. Create a file index- especially if you share your filing system with others
  7. Learn about retention policies- consult your accountant/lawyer
  8. Questions to help decide whether to keep or toss:
    -Can I find this information elsewhere?
    -When will I need it again?
    -Is it current?
  9. Options to File by- LATCH:
    -L: Location (geographic)
    -A: Alphabetical
    -T: Timeline
    -C: Category
    -H: Hierarchy
  10. Create a file for:
    -Receipts – Month/Store
    -Events – Tickets/Invites
    -To Pay – Bills
    -To Do
    -Inspiration – Recipes, Travel,
    -Decorating Ideas
    -Phone/Addresses – Personal, Church, & Organizations
    -Activity Schedules, Sports, Book Club, Church
    -@ Computer

Do you have any quick paper filing tips to share? One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure :D

Ciao for now!


Practical Paper Organizing Series

Efforts to control your paper can eat up a significant portion of your day, slow your productivity to a halt, and just plain stress you out. Plus, if that’s not enough, searching for solutions will have you sifting and filtering through hundreds, if not thousands of books, articles, and blogs hyping the latest and greatest products and concepts for managing your paper or going paperless. Next thing you know, you’re failing miserably at things like The OHIO Rule (Only Handle It Once) or your newly created 43-folder tickler system.

Practical Paper Organizing Series

For me, it always helps to try to figure out the why behind a problem. Once I’m able to wrap my brain around my stumbling blocks, only then can I create solutions. From where I stand, these are the three most common reasons why paper is such a pain.

Ever Tried Drinking Out Of A Fire Hose?

The volume of paper we’ve got coming into our homes and lives is overwhelming. Most people have no idea how to control the flow paper flow. According to the average American will spend 8 months of their lives dealing with junk mail–and that’s just the junk mail. Now, over a lifetime 8 months may seem like a drop in the bucket, but I can think of quite a few other things I’d like to be doing with those 8 months!

Not Born Organized?

I don’t buy it. Sure, some people have natural skills that help them to be better organized but many of us don’t know exactly how. Paper Organizing 101 was not taught at any school I ever attended, nor did I learn this skill at home growing up. Plus, how could our parents and teachers ever have anticipated and prepared us for how paper would infiltrate and inundate our homes and lives?

What Is Paper?

Mostly, we think of paper as a noun. It’s the material the material that is used in the form of thin sheets for writing or printing on. Rather than the verb it should be categorized as. We use paper as a prompt for actions and decisions…or to torture ourselves while serving as reminders for what we have unwritten/unspoken commitments to that we haven’t done yet, but let’s not go there today, k?

How Are You Supposed To Know What Works?

Where do you start? Welp, now you’re on your own. Get to it! Jus’ kitten (as my 2 1/2 year old would say). Of course, I’m here for you. What is your biggest paper pain? Let me know in the comments.

Ciao for now!





Move Over 3-Ring Binder! Here’s a Better Binder System

DiscboundNotebook InteriorDo you have a bunch of sticky notes floating around containing tasks, notes and reminders? Or, worse, LPOPs (little pieces of paper)? Do you collect brochures and other papers when you’re out and about? Or do you have the information somewhat organized into a household binder? I have a love-hate relationship with binders. They’re great for keeping paper corralled and ordered but they’re clunky and clumsy.

I’ve been working on going paper-light for years, so thankfully these things don’t plague me anymore. I still have paper challenges but I have a great tool for managing notes and information. While the fact is that I’m a techie and prefer to go digital, there are still things I do with old-fashioned pencil and paper. Alright, maybe not old-fashioned but updated forms of them. I prefer mechanical pencils to the yellow no.2. And, I don’t use just any old notebook…

My ultimate love for note keeping actually goes by a few product names. My original love is the Circa Notebook from Levenger. When I discovered the Levenger Circa I was lucky enough to have a store nearby so I could ogle and drool over the selection of notebooks, papers and accessories and feel them in my hands. It was love at first sight (touch). Then, I discovered Rollabind…then Staples introduced their M by Staples™ Arc Notebook System, and finally, we have the Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Discbound Notebook System {also sold at Staples}. Shhhh…Wanna know a secret? They all fit together! Which means you can pick and choose components from any system to create the notebook of your dreams. The quality and pricing does vary between the products and papers but the disc system is the same.

DiscboundNotebook CoverI have had a Levenger Circa Junior by my side for at least five years. I had replaced my original cover with a poly Arc cover on my Circa notebook because it’s thin and lightweight. You can tell from the cover that it’s gotten a lot of love. Here’s why:

  • It is completely customizable. I don’t use it the way it’s packaged from the store. Due to the discs that “bind” the notebook together, I’m able to switch out pages, covers, dividers, accessories and even the size of the discs.
  • I can quickly and easily move pages between notebooks. I’m able to carry one notebook with me at all times and move pages to an archive or subject-specific notebook for reference.
  • I can add my own pages. If you purchase a punch, you can print your own pages, add pretty scrapbook paper or even punch other paper you need to keep for reference.
  • It’s compact enough to fit in my purse for capturing notes, ideas and other information on-the-go.

Discbound Notebook PagesI have tested out many of the available accessories for the Circa/Rollabind/Arc/Discbound Notebooks over the years. And since this post is getting longer by the minute, I think I’ll write {at least} one more post to give you the lowdown on my recommendations and all the possibilities. In the meantime, here are the components of my latest notebook configuration:


  1. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Discbound Notebook (see note below re: discs) I have used both the letter and junior-sized Circa Notebooks extensively and I prefer the junior size as my personal notebook. If you work in an office, you might want to try the letter version.
  2. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ 1-1/4″ Discs– The notebook comes with 3/4″ discs and I knew that I wanted a thicker notebook so I purchased these discs from the same collection but I am returning them. I’m not sure if the 1 1/4″ are just too big for the notebook or if they are manufactured incorrectly but the pages don’t turn smoothly and it’s very frustrating. So, these silver aluminum discs from Levenger are on my wish list.
  3. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ Junior Filler Paper– Up until I bought my Martha Stewart Notebook I have been using the Circa Full-Page Ruled Refill Sheets. The paper is high-quality and I prefer it to the Arc system paper. But since my new notebook came with paper I’m trying it out…plus, it’s pretty and matches the blue of the notebook ;)
  4. Circa Task Pads– These are great for writing quick lists and can be moved around to different sections or notebooks.
  5. Circa Page Finder Tabs– I love these tabs for keeping my current page bookmarked within each tabbed section. They are thin and don’t add too much bulk to the notebook.
  6. Martha Stewart Home Office™ with Avery™ 5-Tab Dividers– I just had to get these to match my new notebook. I had these in my previous notebook and these would work, too.

I would love to know if you have a paper note taking system that you love. Please leave it in the comments below. Feel free to ask in the comments if you have any questions on the Circa/Rollabind/Arc/Discbound products. I’m happy to help if I can!

I don’t make a ton of product recommendations, I won’t recommend something just to make a buck and this is not a sponsored post. But there are a few products I have fallen in love with over the years that I will gush about here from time to time. Please know that I consider them tried and true tools or solutions and have seen them work for many clients and friends.

31 Days of Real Life Organizing

Last week I posted about whether or not your organizing measures up to what you see & read in magazines, blogs and on Pinterest. I feel strongly that you deserve to have a home that is organized, warm and welcoming for yourself and others who live and visit there. In addition, I am just as convinced that you can have that without putting the rest of your life on hold. There are lots of simple ways to start making progress towards that goal. I’m sharing what I’ve learned on my journey as a professional organizer and in organizing my own home.


I just learned about TheNester’s 31 Days Annual Writing Challenge and I thought it would be a good way to push myself to write more on the topic. I realize I’m a day late but I figured it’s better to get started late than not to do it at all, right? {a bit of foreshadowing into my second post…}

So for the next 31 days {well, 30, since I’ll post two today}, I’m going to share insights, projects, tips and tools on Real Life Organizing.

You can follow my blog in your RSS feed or follow the 31 Days of Real Life Organizing on Pinterest or you can even pin this post so you can refer back to it throughout or at the end of the 31 days.

Once it’s published, I’ll link up each day’s post in the list below:

  1. How to Get Started Organizing at Home
  2. Perfectly Organized
  3. Oops! 9 Most Common Home Organizing Mistakes
  4. Get Organized. Get Inspired.
  5. How Long Will It Take to Get Organized
  6. RA-RA For Organizing Paper!
  7. The Four Step Foundation for Real Life Organizing & Free Printable
  8. Redefining The Inbox
  9. Are You a Perfectionator?
  10. Get Organized in 15 Minutes or Less?
  11. My Top 10 List of Organizing Myths
  12. Get Organized. Get Inspired. {Useful & Beautiful}
  13. 11 Reasons Your Home Organizing Projects Fail
  14. Create Clutter-Free Holiday Decor: Halloween Edition
  15. How To Organize Product Manuals & Warranty Information
  16. What Organizing Isn’t
  17. How Long To Organize a Room?
  18. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room
  19. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room- Part I
  20. 10 Steps To Organize Any Room- Part II
  21. My Favorite Containers- The Basics
  22. Organizing Rules For Results
  23. 3 Reasons To Think Outside The Box {Or Bin or Container}
  24. Get Organized. Get Inspired.
  25. Take Action On Your Paper Piles
  26. Loathing Laundry?  4 Reasons We Love to Hate Laundry
  27. Organizing Quickie in the Closet
  28. Baby Steps for Tackling Paper Clutter
  29. How Do I Get My Spouse Organized?
  30. Organizing Solution for Kids Activities and Gear
  31. Simplify For The Holidays

Ciao for now!